The public service, encompassing civil servants and non-civil servants, plays a pivotal role in executing governmental programs and policies. These individuals operate within government ministries, departments, and agencies, collectively referred to as Ministry, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). While not all public servants are civil servants, every civil servant is a public servant.

The public service is established under Section 169 of the 1999 Constitution and comprises various entities, including the civil service, Armed Forces, judiciary, and statutory corporations, financed by both state and federal governments. Many public service organizations prioritize service over profit (See Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule to the 1999 Constitution, paragraph 19).

Recently, a reform in the public service has attracted attention. Last week, it was reported that the Federal Government, following the launch of the newly revised Public Service Rules, 2021, on July 28, 2023, may compel around 512 directors in the civil service who have served eight years to leave their positions.

The revised rules also introducad a four-year tenure policy for permanent secretaries, renewable based on performance. Dr. Folashade Yemi-Esan, the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, stated that these rules, initially crafted under the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari, became operational as of July 27, 2023, during the public service lecture commemorating the 2023 Civil Service Week.

The revised policy has sparked controversy due to potential conflicts with the mandatory 60-year retirement age for civil servants, as outlined in the relevant sections of the rules. While PSR 020908 maintains the retirement age as 60 years or 35 years of service with exceptions, the updated PSR 020909 stipulates that directors must retire after eight years on tenure and permanent secretaries hold office for four years, renewable for an additional four years based on performance.

This policy was initially introduced in 2009 under the administration of President Umaru Yar’Adua but was suspended by President Buhari in 2015. The circular issued in 2009 noted that permanent secretaries would serve a four-year term, renewable for another four years, while directors would retire after eight years in the post. This was without prejudice to the rules prescribing a mandatory retirement age of 60 years or 35 years of service. Despite not being a civil or public servant, I support this new policy.

The reform aims to establish due process in director and permanent secretary appointments, address succession challenges, create vacancies, rejuvenate the system, and motivate qualified officers. The involvement of labor unions and consultation with stakeholders bode well for the successful implementation of this reform. By addressing issues such as bribery, corruption, and the tarnished image of the public service, this reform can contribute positively to Nigeria’s administrative landscape.”

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